RAND Europe Contributes to Digital Society Thought Leadership Programme

The Round Tower in Windsor Castle in Windsor, England


The use of the digital is become pervasive and it is becoming ubiquitous in every aspect of our life: from our schooling and education, to how we engage with politics, and even how we manage our finances – it is everywhere. Not only has its influence accelerated over the last 20 years, but all things digital continue to grow exponentially. Developments in digital technology, and the speed at which they come, drive innovation and new applications that touch our lives in different and often profound ways. While there are numerous opportunities associated with being digital, we also need to understand and mitigate the challenges it presents to society.

Following the success of the 2016 programme, RAND Europe is working in partnership with the Corsham Institute to design and deliver the 2017 Thought Leadership Programme, at St George’s House, Windsor, to explore the opportunities and challenges that digital technologies are creating within society which will be comprised of four consultations discussing topic issues in: education and skills, citizen science, currency and civic engagement.

Consultation 1: Education & Skills

preschool students using tablet with teacher


The digital world is disrupting many traditional models of operational and transaction within society. This is apparent in learning and skills attainment, where technology is increasingly being used to deliver education, knowledge and skills in new and innovative ways. Coupled with future changes to the mode and pattern of work and the economic shock posed by the current political climate, we need to consider how digital technology can best support individuals to develop the skills needed to attain maximum benefit from its use in work and social situations, as well as help to create stronger societal norms when using digital technology and ensure appropriate behaviour online.

This consultation took place on 6–7 March. RAND Europe experts participating in the event included Axelle Devaux, Julie Belanger, Sarah Grand-Clement and Catriona Manville.

Consultation 2: Citizen Science

Students engage in citizen science by playing the brain-mapping game EyeWire

Students play with the brain-mapping game EyeWire, a crowd-sourced citizen science tool

Public domain photo by Nathan Kit Kennedy

Scientific knowledge generation in this digital age is evolving and an organic movement of independent citizen scientists is increasingly demonstrating that the pursuit of the scientific endeavour need not be the domain of professional scientists alone. Digital interconnectedness is fostering the collaboration of researchers and the public from all over the world to generate research ideas, design cutting-edge research, identify funding opportunities and collect or supply data in pursuit of some of the most pressing scientific research problems of our time. Novel methods of innovative research are becoming possible through these revolutionary modes of engagement, and contributing to the democratization of knowledge, while activating citizens by raising community awareness about societal problems at the local, as well as the global stage.

This consultation took place on 6–7 April. RAND Europe experts participating in the event included Hans Pung, Elta Smith, Sarah Parks, Anna Knack and Catriona Manville.

Consultation 3: Currency

Euros and binary numbers

Getty Images

As digital technology creates new and different ways to transact we have witnessed the emergence of new forms of currency and transaction platforms to support different methods and types of value exchange. New methods of transaction could have wider economic and social implications with regard to the extent of government control over the economy; the structure of traditional models of tax, social security and pensions; and the role of individuals and communities in the wider financial system. Because the landscape of innovations in this sphere is broad and fast moving, thought should be given to the potential impact of these changes on wider society, and how they could be harnessed by government, communities and individuals for societal good.

This consultation took place on 4–5 May. RAND Europe experts participating in the event include Salil Gunashekar, Jon Freeman, Katherine Stewart and Catriona Manville.

Consultation 4: Civic Engagement

Clusters of people icons and arrows

Getty Images

Digital technologies offer enhanced and expanded opportunities for citizens to engage in civil society and democratic processes. Social media, petition platforms, crowdfunding sites and other online forums and tools offer new means for individuals to contribute to shaping political debate and drive ‘real-world’ change. The prospects are exciting, but the challenges are significant and complex. Addressing risks posed by the spread of misinformation online, the personalisation of our online experience (or ‘filter bubble’), inequalities in terms of digital access and skills, and ensuring that online activism does translate into positive social change offline, will be crucial for harnessing the potential of digital technologies to support stronger, more inclusive democracies.

This consultation will take place on 26-27 June. RAND Europe experts participating in the event include Axelle Devaux, Talitha Dubow and Christian van Stolk.